Pregnancy and Postpartum Fitness Do’s and Don’ts
By Fitness Editor Paula Jager, CSCS, Owner of CrossFit Jaguar, Tampa FL
When trying to conceive most of us are aware of Dr. Weston A. Price’s incredible work and the importance of the right nutrition. This is imperative for proper fetal development and healthy growth of the child as evidenced by his extensive research of Ancestral Cultures following their natural diet.
Another important aspect to planning a pregnancy is getting yourself into decent shape, at an ideal weight and as healthy as possible before conceiving. Losing both the excess pounds and the sedentary lifestyle will make for healthier and happier offspring and a much more pleasant pregnancy experience in general.
Once you are pregnant is not the ideal time to begin a fitness routine. If you are fit before conception then you will be able to continue to perform your exercise routine with certain modifications throughout the 3 trimesters. Let’s look at each one in detail and some guidelines for modifications.
This will vary greatly from individual to individual; taking into account preconception fitness level, weight, health issues etc. And of course you should discuss your plans with your doctor or midwife but make sure you have one that is knowledgeable in this area.
- For most women it is okay to lie on your back until the 12-16 week mark so sit ups would be appropriate.
- Most of the exercises you were doing pre-pregnancy you should be able to continue to do; use your normal weights just don’t go up or attempt to set personal records.
- Keep your heart rate at 140 bpm or less; while this may seem restrictive, focus instead on your breathing–you should be able to carry on a conversation while you’re working out.
- This is a time to maintain your fitness – not high intensity work or all out efforts.
- Rest as needed between sets or exercise and be sure to stay hydrated.
- No more lying on the back; alternate core exercises will need to be implemented.
- Push ups may be done on the floor, an elevated surface or the wall if necessary.
- Hanging ab exercises will work along with pull ups. Stop when you can’t or they become uncomfortable. Switch to a band for assistance or a recline pull up if necessary.
- If jumping becomes uncomfortable switch to a lower box or step ups would be a good substitution.
- Lower your weights about 25-35% at this time on your other exercises, especially explosive ones.
- Use lighter weights on all squatting exercises and do not go below parallel (because of the relaxin hormone which can encourage injury).
- Row, walk, run and jump rope until they become uncomfortable.
- Decrease your weights as necessary.
- Your growing belly is going to be in the way of a lot of exercises; adjust based on form and comfort.
- Keep doing the exercises that are comfortable and substitute for those that are not.
- Run, row and jump if you can but keep your intensity in check. Be able to converse.
- Continue to stay hydrated.
- Walking and squatting are the best preparation exercises for the impending birth of your baby. Squatting every day and holding it for a minute or two is considered by many to be the very best exercise to prepare for a natural birth.
CrossFit Mom is an excellent site with several suggestions for workouts and tips while you are pregnant. They have beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
Begin slowly – no sooner than 6 weeks after the birth of your baby to get back to your normal workouts and listen to your body. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Let your body adjust to not being pregnant. You will also be tired initially caring for a newborn. Give yourself some time but keep moving. You will need energy to keep up with the baby.
Working out will help you get your body back, you will feel like you are doing something for yourself and it will be good for your mental health. Maintain your clean eating habits and increase caloric intake while nursing. Extra fat, protein, fruits and vegetables will help keep the calories up.
Don’t be concerned if your body holds on to some extra weight as long as you are nursing. This is normal. Don’t rush to try and lose those last few pounds as it is nature’s insurance policy for your nursing baby.
Do not accept the fact that you will not get your body back after having children. It’s an excuse. If you’ve stayed active throughout your pregnancy and watched what you put in your mouth. . . there’s no reason not to get your body back. It is a very realistic and achievable goal.
On a personal note I must add that while some of this may seem extreme to someone not involved in a fitness regimen I have trained several women pre, during and post pregnancy and have been amazed at the results this brings. Many of them had had a child prior to this lifestyle and when comparing the differences that the exercise along with the right nutrition made it was astounding. The greater ease of labor and delivery, the health and behavior of the child, the reduced frequency of illnesses, allergies and problems as that child moves through the early years is beyond compare and to me the answer is crystal clear on what we can do to do the common uncommonly well.
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.